Monday, September 19, 2011

The Power of Specificity

Kids have a way of helping one to communicate more clearly and rediscover gospel basics.

I arrived at a new "ward," or congregation yesterday.  As they don't separate spouse's Church "records" (my faith is fastidious about taking care of its members, which includes a geographically-orientated church system coupled with a rigorous, formal record of you with all of your church ordinances, address information, and familial ties) and my husband remains in London, I am now a "visitor" for Church purposes here in Philadelphia for the next eight months, without the ability to have official "callings" or assignments or be plugged into its two shepherding programs designed to take care of temporal and spiritual needs on an individual level, home and visiting teaching.

But that doesn't mean they didn't put me to work in - guess what - the Primary, and in music to boot.  I love it.  

When a Primary leader stood up and began discussing "the gospel," I realized that the children did not know what she meant.  This is actually a question I have been pondering for a while - what does "the gospel" entail?  My faith has assumed many such Christian jargon words and phrases, plus a whole slew of our own.  These including the following:

(in bearing testimony)
"I know the gospel is true."
"I know the Church is true."
(in prayer)
"I am thankful for my blessings."
"Please bless ______"

I recently read something by a fairly erudite and thoughtful leader, Neal A. Maxwell, a recently-deceased apostle, which has caused me to think even more about the above common utterances.  It is found in the now out-of-print book entitled "Prayer" - a life-changing book if ever there was one: "We too often pray in generalities rather than specifics.  A vague prayer is hardly a prayer at all." (p. 50)

Does this also mean, by extension, that a vague testimony is hardly a testimony at all? Too, what does the "gospel" really mean?  Does it not mean the good news of Christ crucified?  That the tomb was empty, and that we can be forgiven and made better through His atonement?  Then why don't we say it?

I believe that the words we use lose meaning as we distance ourselves from their substance.  Too, if we are not careful, we can, in being vague, distance ourselves from diety as we fail to remember that, as the Savior rebuffed Martha, "I am the resurrection and the life!" He is the sum and substance of our faith.

As we lose sight of the fact that He and His atonement and resurrection is the centerpoint to our faith, and that all else are mere appendages, we will not only lose our own testimony of His reality and daily purpose in our lives, but others will lose or fail to gain faith in this "restored gospel," or restored good news that the Savior lived and died and again directs His church upon the earth, too.  I unfortunately have had a friend fall away and one who refused to join even though they both liked the faith.  The complaint was the same: we did not talk of Christ enough, and therefore were not Christian enough.

This is a terrible tragedy, and one that Satan undoubtedly glees over.  We should talk and rejoice and preach of Christ, as Nephi says, that our children (and friends, and investigators) may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins and rejuvenation of their lives.

Next time some well-meaning Latter-day Saint reader is tempted to use the worn-out phrase, "I know the gospel is true," perhaps instead "I know that Christ lived and died for me" can be uttered.  The difference in the power and truth of the phrase is in direct proportion to its specificity.

1 comment:

  1. I have to say that when I was investigating the church...the lack of Christ being discussed was a big deal for me. I thought members often sounded "zombie-like" with the multi-repeated, "I know the church is true", "Joseph Smith is a true Prophet", "the Gospel is true", etc. Luckily, I looked past that at the content but to this day I am still mindful that words can become stale. Thanks for this post, Lorianne!